Banana protein could help against all coronaviruses – Coronavirus

According to the Linz research team, the substance obtained from bananas should help against all coronaviruses. He doesn’t seem to mind the mutation either.

In the fight against Sars-CoV-2, an international research team brings a new drug candidate into play: H84T-BanLec. This is a compound originally found in bananas that has been modified for use against coronaviruses. As the team writes in the journal “Cell Reports Medicine”, H84T-BanLec should not only work against Sars-CoV-2, but also against some other coronaviruses.

Scientists from the University of Hong Kong, University of Michigan, Johannes Kepler University Linz and other institutions were involved in the study. Here’s what you should know about the findings:

What kind of substance is H84T-BanLec?

H84T-BanLec is a lectin protein that comes from bananas. Hence the name “BanLec”. Lectins have the ability to bind to specific carbohydrate structures (glycans). This allows them to bind specifically to cells and trigger biochemical reactions there.

What can H84T-BanLec do against Sars-CoV-2?

Coronaviruses carry special carbohydrate compounds on their surface that attract lectins. The peak protein of Sars-CoV-2 is also covered with glycans. The researchers modified H84T-BanLec in such a way that it primarily binds to these carbohydrate compounds on the surface of the virus. By sticking it together, they prevent, for example, Sars-CoV-2 with its spike protein from anchoring with human cells and subsequently penetrating them.

Why did H84T-BanLec have to be modified in the first place?

Because unedited, it can adversely stimulate the body’s immune system by putting T-cells (see box) on uncontrolled alert. If this happens, it can “cause an overreaction of the immune system and thus unwanted inflammation,” according to the APA researchers. The scientists ruled this out by fine-tuning the compound’s molecular structure.

The building blocks of the immune system

The human immune system can respond to pathogens in two ways: antibodies and so-called memory cells.

in antibodies They are proteins from the class of globulins, which are formed by the plasma cells of vertebrates in response to certain substances (antigens).

memory cells are specialized lymphocytes that can remain inactive for a long time (months to years) after contact with an antigen. They are only reactivated when they re-encounter the relevant antigens. A distinction is made between memory T cells, which kill other infected cells, and memory B cells, which produce more antibodies as needed. Both represent the so-called immunological memory.

You can do it?

Yes, at least in laboratory and animal studies. Using high-resolution atomic force microscopes, the researchers were able to observe what H84T-BanLec was doing in the samples used. In this way, they were able to identify spots on the spike protein where H84T-BanLec anchors and observe that it “effectively inhibits all tested coronaviruses” and thus “prevents the virus from entering host cells.”

The links between the virus and H84T-BanLec are very strong and diverse, the APA agency quotes from the study. This makes it difficult for Sars-CoV-2 to protect itself from lectin accumulation, for example through mutations. Multiple changes in the spike protein would be required for H84T-BanLec to no longer fulfill its function. However, according to the Linz team, this is “unlikely”. Even attempts to specifically create resistant viruses did not lead to any variant against which H84T-BanLec would be ineffective.

The researchers were also able to show that H84T-BanLec can also be used against other seasonal and epidemic coronaviruses such as Sars-1 or Mers, as well as against influenza viruses that also have special carbohydrate structures.

How important is H84T BanLec?

At least scientists have high hopes. Experts predict that more variants of Sars-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses will appear in the future. Fear: Some of these as-yet-unknown pathogens could show resistance to existing antivirals. Therefore, there is an urgent need to prepare so-called “pan-coronavirus” antiviruses for these new threats.

Does H84T-BanLec only work against coronaviruses?

No It can also be used in a modified form against hepatitis C, HIV and herpes viruses, as reported by a German-American research team in 2015. According to several studies, use in the fight against Ebola is also possible.

When will H84T-BanLec be used?

This is still unclear. Initially, the plan is to produce clinical-grade H84T-BanLec for human testing. Clinical studies are conducted using nasal sprays or drops. As part of this, the use against cancer, whose cells also have glycans on their surface, is to be investigated.

However, the researchers already have specific ideas about the application: ‚ÄúSince H84T-BanLec is known to be effective against other viruses, such as influenza viruses, intranasal administration of H84T-BanLec could become a particularly useful countermeasure in seasonal outbreaks of respiratory viruses. ” reads the report.

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